Ukraine and Canadian Flag
Global governance, Europe, Russia & Eurasia, Conflict & security, Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine, Munk School

How CERES is forging links between Ukraine and the University of Toronto

Fostering research connections throughout the war

Like many other Ukrainians on February 24, 2022, Ilona Khmeleva awoke in her hometown of Kyiv to loud, violent blasts. The explosions continued around the clock from that moment on, and when Khmeleva made the decision to leave Kyiv for western Ukraine, she found out that surrounding villages had been destroyed by Russian troops. Even after the area was liberated by the Ukrainian military in spring 2022, missile strikes and power outages made it difficult to carry on with professional activities and research. But still, Khmeleva returned to Kyiv, deciding to stay in Ukraine and to help her country in challenging times.  

In an effort to assist scholars like Khmeleva during the war, the Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine (PJP) created an initiative to support non-resident fellows from Ukraine. Founded in 2001, PJP promotes scholarly understanding of the government, economy and society of contemporary Ukraine, as well as the country’s history and culture. Housed within CERES at the Munk School, it encourages the development of projects by scholars in Ukrainian Studies both at the University of Toronto and other institutions. In May 2022, PJP called for non-residential fellowship applications, attracting over 180 applications – an attestation of the very acute need for initiatives of this kind.    

As a Petro Jacyk fellow, Khmeleva, who is an expert in international law, international relations and a member of the Ukrainian Association of International Law, is developing a project devoted to the legal qualification of Russia’s war against Ukraine and ways to bring those responsible to justice. On top of her research aimed at ensuring democratic reforms in Ukraine and effective resistance to Russian hostility, Khmeleva presented her work as a part of a CERES panel in November 2022, which discussed international law and the legal dimensions of war crimes. Khmeleva is also advocating for the creation of a “special tribunal” to hold Russia accountable for crimes of aggression. 

Ksenya Kiebuzinski, Slavic resources coordinator, head of Petro Jacyk Central and the East European Resource Centre at U of T Libraries and co-director of the Petro Jacyk Program; notes that it is important for non-residential fellows to have access to U of T’s vast electronic resources from anywhere in Ukraine. This includes over two million academic university press eBooks, scholarly e-journals, video and full-text digital collections of library material.  

Much like Khmeleva, Hanna Zaremba-Kosovych has remained in Ukraine (she lives in Lviv) since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion.  As a Petro Jacyk non-residential fellow, Zaremba-Kosovych, who researches everyday life for people with intellectual disabilities in Ukraine, finds U of T’s library access and introductions to disability researchers from the Centre of Global Disability Studies an indispensable resource and imperative to her work and professional practice.  

Non-residential fellows also have access to licensed content and digital geospatial data. Electricity in Ukraine is spotty due to Russia’s continuous attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, and the Kremlin’s military has destroyed over 350 libraries in Ukraine, making the resources that come with the fellowship vital for the scholars to continue their research, Kiebuzinski says. Within PJP, non-residential fellows present their work in progress in an informal setting and get feedback from other fellows, U of T faculty and graduate students. Non-residential fellows are able to build connections with their peers at U of T and are also offered professional development opportunities, such as an informal session with academic publishers to assist with promoting and disseminating their research. 

Along with the other PJP non-residential fellows, Khmeleva hopes to one day meet in person with her new colleagues from CERES, the Munk School and the wider University of Toronto community–with the hope that a peaceful Kyiv will be the setting for this occasion.